“Looking ahead, as our team noted, “This is the best thing that could happen.” We spoke with Anna Orlova, Manager of HR Team at CreatorIQ about the introduction of a 4-day work week in the company. About how it works, about feedback, results and challenges.
- Anya, hello! Start over. How, in general, did you come up with the idea to introduce a 4-day work week?
A.O.: A little background. CreatorIQ bought another company, Tribe Dynamics, in 2021, and this practice was borrowed from it. The company implemented it as an element of employee support during the COVID-19 pandemic. After the pandemic began, people realized that life would not be the same as before. For many, it was a great stress, because the usual world where everyone lived before was destroyed.
On the other hand, there was not a complete understanding of how to work under such conditions. The company faced a very strong burnout among employees. As an experiment, a 4-day working week every two weeks was introduced. Within the framework of Tribe Dynamics, the experiment was considered a success, and it was decided to scale it to the entire CreatorIQ company.
For the Ukrainian office, the test period is scheduled from February to August 2022. At the end of this period, a decision will be made as to whether the experiment was successful.
Unfortunately, Focus Fridays (as the company called the experiment) coincided with the beginning of the war in Ukraine. They didn’t bring the joy we expected from this implementation, but at some point Focus Fridays helped us a lot during and after the evacuation from Kharkiv.
An important clarification about the concept: it is not “outbound” in the conventional sense. This is a “day for yourself”.
What can be done on this day? Almost everything 🙂 If you want to work – please. On this day, there are no meetings, no one distracts, and everyone can calmly do what they don’t have time or energy for at other times. You can study, you can devote a day to taking care of your family and your own health. For example, I made this day educational for myself. I have a lot of training courses planned, for which there was always not enough time. And now I study on Fridays.
There were only two rules:
- Work should not suffer.
- The support team is working (in this case, they are on duty, and “focus Friday” for those on duty is postponed to another day).
- What was the reaction of the team when this experiment was announced?
We have a weekly corporate meeting where the whole team is present. On it, we make corporate announcements, share plans and achievements. Due to the time difference (our main office is in the USA), not everyone has the opportunity to be present online, so some watch the meeting on the record, and we send the most important theses in emails. So, when “Focus Fridays” were announced at such a meeting, messages immediately poured into the corporate slack. At first, not everyone understood, they thought that it was translated from English incorrectly. People really did not believe.
And when they confirmed that it was not a joke, that everyone understood everything correctly and that we really will have a four-day work week – it was something incredible. And such a reaction from the team is priceless. Agree, when some innovations are made in the company, they always have both supporters and opponents. And this news was received with great enthusiasm by the entire team.
- And what were the goals of this experiment? What results does the team plan to achieve with a four-day work week?
A.O.: The company is interested in people working well. And in order to work well, you need to rest well. When you have the opportunity to devote more time to recovery – yes, we see the result.
- What metrics do you use to evaluate the effectiveness of this experiment?
A.O.: We rely on the general goals achieved by the company. The goals set for the year are very successfully achieved.
- Even compared to previous years?
A.O.: Of course, every year our goals are more and more ambitious, and the company confidently achieves them. This means that those who work in the company and achieve these goals do it faster, better, more productively.
Hence the conclusion, if even the most daring goals are achieved, then it works, including due to the fact that the team has a comfortable work-life balance and the strength to achieve these goals.
- It sounds very inspiring. An additional point to freedom of decision, yes?
A.O.: Absolutely true.
Looking ahead, when the war started, many were under stress, and it helped to distract from what was happening around them.
So yes, we had moments when the team itself said “we don’t need a day off, we’ll work”, and that’s OK too.
But those who were stressed and couldn’t work, they freely used this option, and that was also OK.
It is not necessarily a day of rest, as I said. This is not only and not so much a day off, but an opportunity to independently plan your time more efficiently.
We love each of our employees and try to approach each one individually. Therefore, on Focus Fridays, people could do whatever they wanted.
- Sounds fantastic. Especially when you talk about the individuality of the process. It is very important.
- And tell me more about the implementation process: you announced that there will be “Focus Fridays” every second Friday. How was it further implemented? How did the processes change? What activities did the company carry out to make everything go smoothly?
A.O.: Yes, we announced the news at a general meeting, the terms of the experimental period, the start date and how everything will happen were determined. What is important is that the innovation concerned the entire company, because we are represented in the USA, Great Britain, Ukraine and a number of other countries. And this right applied to everyone.
From organizational points, a calendar was created, all Fridays are listed in it, and actually all team members can see the activities of their colleagues planned for that day. When planning your work, you can check whether there are any intersections with your vis-a-vis – perhaps he is resting. If it is necessary to communicate – please, but only with the mutual consent of all participants.
On some Focus Fridays, we conducted workshops with psychologists. For example, they discussed the topics of stress, uncertainty, and anxiety in wartime conditions. The team did very well, so we will continue them in the future.
We also organized an online summit on one of the Fridays. Usually, our company has a tradition – an annual summit. In 2019, it was held offline for the last time, from 2020 in an online format due to Covid-19, in 2022 the summit was able to be held offline in the USA (for the rest of the team that could not join, presentations were recorded). And we held our version of the summit on such a Friday – gathered in Zoom, watched the recordings together, discussed them and chatted on the online afterparty 🙂
By the way, some of the Americans who spoke live at the summit also joined us to tell some details live and meet the team, it was very nice to meet colleagues that we had not seen for a long time.
- And what about results? Which results you see now?
A.O.: An additional day off greatly simplifies the life of many of our employees. I would rather share the reviews here:
“I like it. You can do on a weekday what you can’t do on a weekend.”
“I support, it’s very convenient that you can set aside this day to do things that you can’t do on the weekend and not be absent during the working day”
“Very nice, I support everyone who commented above. This really allows you to rest more, solve everyday problems. I thought to myself that even on vacation I don’t really want to reboot, because I have time to rest well for these days in a row. In in general, I really hope that the focus of Fra Dey will be made permanent”
“Before the start of a full-scale war, there were plans to spend a big weekend on nature, when you can go further beyond Kha region, to beautiful locations. Now I use it for a reboot, the weekend will solve the problem remain for hobby. There is no accumulated fatigue from work”
“I agree with all of the above. Focus Friday is probably the coolest intangible benefit. I believe that it will be a convincing argument for attracting new employees to the company”
“The best thing that has happened to me is that you can work in a concentrated manner without tolls. You feel less pressure of time and the framework of the working day. In my opinion, the idea is very successful. And also, by the way, it helps a lot when you have all kinds of small tasks piling up. Will update the virtual machine, change the password, do something else. It doesn’t always go according to plan, and because it’s working time, we feel more stressed.”
As you can see, there are many reviews, they are different, but not a single negative one.
- What about you personally, not as HR, but as an employee? In addition to the fact that you devote these days to study, what results have you personally noted?
A.O.: It is 100% positive for me, since tsundoku (a Japanese term that refers to all purchased but not yet read books, here – in the context of training courses) just did not give me peace:)
I looked at all these courses, thought that all this was necessary and interesting for me, but there was not enough time in the day. So it helps a lot.
Plus, it makes it possible to spend more time with the family – it’s nice.
- Provocative content. What’s wrong with a four-day week? 🙂
A.O.: I can’t say that it’s bad, but at the beginning we faced a certain number of challenges.
At first, it was not entirely clear how to track time if you are working that day. Is this overtime? This is definitely not a bad thing, just an issue that needed attention. But we fixed everything, developed the rules, brought them to the team, now everyone knows what and how to do.
As with any innovation, there was some chaos. It can be with any process, so as soon as we figured it out, it became easier.
- Unfortunately, any process now overlaps with the issue of war. How did you handle the situation? How did you support the team, reorganize the work? And how did these Fridays help you?
A.O.: At the beginning of the full-scale war, most of the team left Kharkiv. Accordingly, people spent this time on the road (it just so happened that February 25 was Focus Friday). During this time, the team could have time to leave or get somewhere, rest on the way. Therefore, these days came in very handy.
There were cases when after 2 weeks people realized that they had no possibility to live in the place where they are for a long time, so many people also used the next Focus Friday to move.
We were very worried about each member of the team, the management and HR team constantly monitored the situation, were in touch with everyone in case of help, and everything worked out for us. Fortunately, we didn’t lose anyone.
- What arguments would you recommend to HR managers who want to offer a four-day week in their company to management? After all, many are afraid of losing working hours.
A.O.: Everything is individual in each company. It has its own culture, accepted rules. From my point of view, it is impossible to predict absolutely everything and know in advance what will work and what will not. However, if there is an opportunity to allocate time for the experiment, for example, a less busy period between two projects, or a seasonal lull – you can try to do it and observe the results.
If the result shows that it is worth it, I think the management will be interested in the company working well. After all, business is primarily people and ideas, and if people are resourceful and bring good ideas, I hope the management will only be in favor.
- If the result turns out to be unsatisfactory, and after six months you will have to cancel Focus Fridays and return to the standard schedule. Have you considered this option?
A.O.: We thought about it. First, people remember that this is a temporary experiment. It should be noted that employees are grateful, but do not demand to implement it on a permanent basis. People ask, “Okay, what can we do on our end to make it work better?”
This approach is personally very pleasant to me, and while we are at the stage when there is no reason not to continue this format. Everyone is trying to work hard so that the experiment is considered successful.
- It sounds very inspiring. And what would you recommend to companies that are currently at the planning stage of this type of work? Maybe you already have a list of caveats and points that you should pay attention to in the first place?
A.O.: If everything is thought out and well planned, there is no need to be afraid. If this is a mature and well-informed decision, and not an imitation of trends, everything will definitely work out.
- And how to plan correctly? What steps should not be forgotten? Life hacks and must-haves in the implementation process?
A.O.: There are no secret life hacks here. It is important to convey information to the team. Discuss the conditions, expectations, if it is an experiment – emphasize it. Make information available (starting with the recruiting process), communicate correctly, think through technical support for bureaucratic issues.
Next, it is worth observing how effective this format turned out to be for you. It may be that the team liked the format, but the business did not. And, if the business understands that the experiment worked and the results improved – it remains only to be happy for such a business.
- As I understand, you took the global achievement of the company’s goals as these KPIs?
A.O.: We have annual goals, they are broken down into quarters. And, as of the end of the six-month period, we are moving very briskly towards these goals.
- Very interesting experience and reviews.
A.O.: Yes. I will also add that at the recruiting stage, when we started to implement the experiment, there was a period of very strong excitement in the IT market (we had much more openings than candidates), and when companies offer +/- the same, an offer with a four-day working week (in Ukraine this phenomenon is new and not widespread enough), very beneficial. People are interested, they ask to tell in more detail. The calculation shows that this is +27 days off per year. Even if the basic company has 15 days of vacation per year, with such Fridays it is already 42 days, and if 20 days – we get 47 days of vacation. A great addition in my opinion 🙂
- This is a very cool addition to the company’s EVP!
A.O.: I can’t disagree 🙂